Binocs Review: Vortex v Minox v Zeiss 8x42
The following is a short review of three binoculars I recently tested.
I want to first give a shout out to Doug at Cameraland who sold me the three pairs at excellent prices with the understanding I could send back two pairs (used only in my home for a weekend).
Doug provided excellent customer service and very fast delivery.
I highly recommend Cameraland to interested purchasers!
Enough as to the plug - here we go:
I was interested in the Vortex Razor 8x42, Minox 8.5x43 and Zeiss Victory 8x42.
The prices I paid at Cameraland were $549.00 for the Vortex (demo) , $549.99 for Minox (discount for referencing of their affiliated cites), $1,599 for the Zeiss (demo price).
Yes, I know the Zeiss cost three times the price of the other binocs. But I wanted to see just how well the Vortex and Minox compared to Big 3 German binocs.
First - packaging and cases:
The Vortex and Zeiss binocs came with both rubber eye cup and objective covers.
The Minox just have eye cup covers. The Vortex and Zeiss came with both binocular and case straps. The Minox came with only one binoc strap, evidently you are supposed to attach the large Minox case your belt! The Vortex binoc strap is well-built with stretchy rubber/nylon. The Minox has a thin, cheap strap. Zeiss straps were well-built as well.
And now the cases - see photo. Again, the Vortex and Zeiss have very nice, thick, nylon cases.
Both of these cases have top pieces that wrap around the sides to keep rain out. The Zeiss case also had a webbing, storage compartment. The Vortex also came with additional eye relief pieces which I thought were unnecessary (the Vortex already has great eye relief), but a nice addition. Minox has a thin, cheap, nylon was with no rain protection.
The weight of the binocs: I used a postage scale to weigh the binocs. I could be an ounce or two off. My scales weighs the binocs as follows: Victory - 31 ounces, Minox- 29 ounces and Zeiss - 27 ounces.
How the binoculars felt to hold:
The Vortex and Zeiss both had thick, rubber armor. Coupled with the binocs heavier weight, the Vortex felt very well-built and solid. The Zeiss also felt well-built, but not as solid due to their lighter weight. The Minox had a thin rubber coating, and didnít feel quite as secure in your hands as the Vortex and Zeiss binocs. The Minox also did not feel as good to hold while viewing because the mounting points for the binoc straps rubbed against my hands while focusing.
Ok you ask: How well do the binocs actually work?
Indoor viewing during the day in an average illuminated room.
I used the binoculars from about 30 feet away to view photos on a on-white wall, and a typed piece of letter. I first compared the Minox and Vortex binocs. The Minox were noticeably brighter. The colors were also cooler, while the Vortex were warmer in nature. One annoying feature of the Minox was that I couldnít hold my eyes up to the bottom of the rubber eye cups - if I did, I would see black along the bottom of the image. Instead, I had to just rest my face against the top of the rubber. Maybe my eyelashes were hitting the eye piece, or else it just didnít fit my face securely. But to my eyes, the Minox were noticeably brighter and clearer.
I also didnít like the Vortex focusing wheel. It was accurate, but I felt a lot of friction - like metal rubbing against metal. Will this be a problem in the long run?
Now - the Minox vs. the big gun - the Zeiss. This will surprise some, but I felt the Minox held up very well against the Zeiss. Both gave very bright images (remember this is indoors in a fairly well-lit room). The Zeiss had a wider field of view and was lighter, and more comfortable in my hand. But I liked the Minox color rendition better. Looking at a drawing on my wall, the Minox gave a much warmer image - more orange and red tints. By contrast, the Zeiss was more austere, with a cooler, green tint. Since I want to primarily use the binocs for viewing nature, I preferred the Minoxís more colorful images. I want to stress that the difference wasnít great, and neither was inaccurate.
Outdoor Viewing - 12:00 Noon on a sunny, fall day
My test results were similar outdoors with one surprise. Again, I liked the color rendition of the Vortex best - very warm. But the image couldnít hold up to that of the Minox and Zeiss.
And again, I liked the slightly warmer colors of the Minox to that of the Zeiss - especially while looking at yellow leaves on a tree.
Now the surprise - I thought the Minox had slightly sharper images than the Zeiss outdoors.
Now this may be due to the fact that the Minox has slightly more power - 8x5 instead of 8 - and wider tubes - 43 instead of 42's. I donít know why, but it did appear a tiny bit sharper to my laymanís eyes.
Here was the final decision for me: While both binocs were sharp - I was able to look at the reflection of trees in a carís black, painted bumper (sunny day) about 45 feet way. With the Zeiss, the reflection was a bit hard to see - with the Minox, the trees were very clear - - - reflecting off a car bumper! And bear in mind the Minox were more than $1,000 cheaper - even with a demo price on the Zeiss binocs!
To summarize, you canít go wrong with any of these binoculars. The Vortex are very well-built and come with great accessories. They are a bargain that their price. Their warranty is also one of the best out there. The Zeiss - well, these have been described as the best 8x42's currently available (Leica and Swarovski owners may differ). One last note - I compared the Zeiss to the Leica 8x42s Ultravids a week ago, and liked the Zeissí better. The Leica are indeed built like a tank, and a bit more compact (and heavier). But I didnít care for the Leicaís dimmer view. The shop I visited did tell me, however, that Leica was much better about making warranty repairs than was Zeiss. Supposedly, Leica will even covering repairs due to an ownerís negligence.
But for me, the Minox will do just fine - even if I have train myself to rest my head just right against them. Iíd rather save the $1,000 and visit Cameraland again in December to purchase the new Panasonic GF2 camera coming out!
Again, I canít stress enough how great Doug and Cameraland were to work with.
I will be definitely be giving them all of my binocular and camera business in the future!
Scott Ives, Sterling VA.